About a year ago (and perhaps once a month ever since) Markus Gobel asked: “Why is it still impossible to do a hosted-Skype-to-SIP?”
He suggested that a service provider should install servers to act as a bridge to Skype where users give the service provider their Skype logins. The reason this is not common is because of cost. To bridge to open-standards based VoIP, particularly SIP, is easy. The protocols are known, and there are many choices for implementations to deploy. Skype, on the other hand, is proprietary and there is only one source for an implementation, Skype. It is far more resource intensive and complex to setup “hosted Skype”.
A modern server can support thousands (or hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions) of SIP accounts, and it is easy to manage such configurations using off-the-shelf solutions. Contrast that to Skype, where running “hosted Skype” requires all kinds of hacks. One has to run instances of the normal Skype client with some kind of hacks to a PBX or SIP or other open system. How many hacked Skype instances can you run on one server? Are you managing these in a pile of virtual machines? Is each VM running Windows? If so, that means expensive Microsoft licenses per virtual machine. This is ugly and complex, which translates to expensive to setup and operate.
Mobivox and Fring must be deploying such hacks – and it must be expensive and complex operationally for them to do so.
And that’s why “hosted Skype” is not common. If Skype had a published interface (we call them protocols) to interface at the network level, we would see third-party code that could be used on the platform(s) of the operator’s choice. The Skype protocol might still turn out to be more expensive to operate per user (have more overhead) for the operator than standards-based options, but it would be far less expensive than the hacks required today to deploy “hosted Skype”.
Even if Skype offered “black box” (closed) modules with APIs for a server environment, it would be better than the situation we have today. Instead, today we have to work with Skype clients intended to interact with humans, with limited APIs, that have to be “faked” into data center mode – we have no “dark data center” human-free Skype modules to work with.
So don’t blame the operators and service providers – blame the cause of the situation SKYPE! Skype needs to provide “data center” solutions if you expect more operators and service providers to deploy “hosted Skype” services.